Posts filed under ‘Corporate Recruiters’
An experienced search consultant can be many things to a client they are working with above and beyond just recruiting: adviser, provider of market intelligence, resume screener, reference checker, recruiting coordinator, and expert negotiator just to name a few . One thing you should always expect from your search consultant as a client is honesty. Here is how your expectations of honesty should play out when working with a recruiter:
The Job Order. You should always find a recruiter who is an industry expert. Often times recruiters take any positions that arrive on their desk and have a hard time saying no. A good recruiter should be honest and should be able to say “no” when an opportunity is presented to them that falls out of their wheel house. I appreciate all the calls I get from existing and new clients requesting my services, but from time-to-time I must be honest and tell them they would be better off selecting another recruiter who has the true expertise they are looking for. For instance, I specialize in recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals mainly in the areas of land development, transportation/highway engineering, bridge engineering, water & wastewater engineering, and water resources. There are a number of specialties that are on the fringes, that may seem logical areas for our continuum of expertise, but are not. These areas might include construction management, structural building engineering, or environmental (site remediation) engineering.
The Time Frame. Often times I have new clients that approach me with exciting new searches, and they ask me how long they think it will be before I can deliver some solid candidates. If a recruiter can make you a promise like that I would be skeptical at best. The honest truth is we do not know. In our business timing is everything, so it is about catching the right candidate on the right day with the right opportunity. Now, from time-to-time we may have readily available candidates that we are actively working with they might fit, but normally speaking, those situations are few-and-far between. Searches are customized and tailor made to uncover candidates with specific skill sets that meet your requirements.
The Word on the Street. Honesty can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, but a good recruiter will be your firm’s eyes and ears, and an honest recruiter should be able to have a professional conversation with you when your firm’s reputation is not so great. When recruiting for a client, if I continually hear the same objections from perspective candidates specific to my client’s reputation, I feel as though I have an obligation to report that to my client. This market intelligence will allow the client to truly evaluate their public perception and make changes, or it will lead to a conversation that will allow me to overcome those potential objections. For instance, I have a client who from time-to-time is considered a “sweat shop.” I approached my client with this information, and in fact they produced a report for me showing that their average hours hovered around 45-46 hours/week. Hardly a “sweat shop” in the consulting civil engineering world. This honest conversation provided me with the needed ammunition any time the topic surfaced and to have some honest conversations with my candidates as well.
Salary Expectations. Every so often I will have a conversation with a new client revolving around salary for the proposed position they are looking to fill. Because we are experts recruiting civil engineers, we talk to civil engineers all day long and have our “finger on the pulse” as to the range of salaries that are being offered to the different experience levels and specialties underneath the civil engineering umbrella. If our client is being tight on the purse strings, we will let them know, and nine times out of ten they are appreciative of that honesty. They often have to go by different salary surveys they find on line or through national organizations, but salaries and compensation plans tend to be very parochial in the civil engineering community. Sub-market salaries can absolutely kill any chance of finding that civil engineering rock star that is so desired, so don’t be afraid to ask your search consultant his or her opinion of the salary range you have earmarked for the open requisition.
Interview Feedback. No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, hence the old saying “don’t murder the messenger.” Your firm may have a GREAT opportunity, but if your interview process is not a well thought out process it will come back to bite you in the rear end. Many firms fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to interviewing, and in the end, an unprepared interviewer or team of interviewers can derail an interview process and turn off a really good candidate, leading you back to square one. A good recruiter will extract honest feedback from their candidate, and if that feedback ends up being negative as a result of an uncomfortable interview environment, an ornery line of questioning, etc, he/she should let you know about it. Granted there are two sides to every story, but use that feedback to better position yourself the next time a strong candidate walks through your door and sits across the desk from you.
Over the years I have developed many strong client relationships based upon trust and honesty, and it is a two way street. The ability to put everything out on the table will go along way when working with an experienced search consultant and will lead to far better results in securing the quality talent that is so desired.
This blog is the 2nd in our Honesty series. The first in the series is titled ” What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter.”
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com
An experienced recruiter can be many things to a candidate they are working with: career counselor, resume writer, sounding board, confidant, negotiator, interview coordinator, interview coach, and sometimes even friend. One thing you should always expect from a recruiter as a candidate is honesty. Here is how honesty presents itself through the recruiting process and what you should expect from the search consultant you are working with:
The initial call. When you are contacted for the first time by a recruiter you should know how the recruiter got your name. Was it through LinkedIn or some other avenue the recruiter was researching on the internet, or was it via a referral from a previous supervisor, a client, a past subordinate, or maybe even someone in the peripheral on whom you made a positive impact. This is important to know, because if the recruiter does uncover a great opportunity for you, you will want to reach out and thank that referring source.
Resume critique. Poorly written resumes are often brushed aside and given little, if no consideration. If someone’s resume is not up to par, I let them know, and we work on reformatting it together. It is important that your recruiter share with you his/her thoughts, both good and bad, so that a properly formatted and laid out resume is developed prior to formal submission to any company. I’ve seen my fair share of poorly written resumes, in fact I just concluded brushing one up with one of my current candidates. The resume shipped over to my client in its original form may have not made the greatest first impression. Your recruiter should understand that you are a professional engineer, not a professional resume writer, so if it is something that you have not done often it can indeed be a challenge. A recruiter looks at resumes all day along, so they should be able to offer some solid tips.
Where your resume is going. Never allow a recruiter to haphazardly submit your resume to firms without your prior permission. Having a recruiter “spam” your resume to dozens of companies is perceived as an act of desperation and absolutely jeopardizes your confidentiality. You should be selective in who your resume is submitted to, and an honest recruiter will ALWAYS inform you as to where they would like to submit your resume and request your specific permission.
Qualifications / interview feedback. Submitting your resume and/or interviewing on your own without the guidance of a professional recruiter can be frustrating. Receiving any feedback in response to a resume submission or an interview can be challenging, and for many people that is an understatement. A good recruiter will provide feedback from the client. Positive feedback is positive feedback; it is easy to understand and easy to communicate back to the candidate. Often times, when a resume is not well received, or the feedback from the client in regards to the interview is less than stellar, the feedback can be a hard pill to swallow. A good recruiter will be honest with you in providing feedback, no matter how negative; they should NOT beat around the bush or sugar coat things. Discussing the negative feedback will provide value to you as a candidate and will help you better prepare for the next interview that arises.
Nothing available. After speaking with a recruiter, if they have nothing available, they should TELL YOU THAT. This will allow you to move forward with other avenues and will keep you from being hung out to dry. So often candidates submit their resume to a recruiter, have an initial conversation, but then never hear anything back. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with a candidate who has told me they submitted their resume to another recruiter who said they had an opportunity for them, but never heard back from them again.
Negotiations. An honest recruiter should be able to have a frank conversation with you when it comes to negotiating an offer. They are certainly looking out for your best interest and formulating an offer that you will be excited about, but they are working on behalf of their client, and if they feel as though your demands will “upset the apple cart” they should let you know ahead of time, because once the apple cart is upset it is very difficult to get it back on its wheels. A recruiter should let you know what requests are feasible, what current market conditions are, what others in similar roles are making, and they should have a good feel for their client as to what will and will not fly. From time-to-time I have worked with candidates who demand the moon when we arrive to the offer stage. A good and honest recruiter will be able inform the candidate that their expectations may be a little rigid, and if they really want the job they will have to back down a little bit. The goal of a recruiter is to hammer out a deal that will be a win/win for all involved.
I have seen many civil engineering recruiters come-and-go over my eighteen-and-a-half years in this business, many of them are no longer in business because they failed to be honest. When working with an experienced recruiter, make sure you feel comfortable working with them, and set expectations up front that revolve around some of the points I mentioned above.
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
In the game of poker, slow playing is the tactic of not taking aggressive action when you have a strong hand. The goal is to draw the other players at the table in to keep them playing and to keep building the pot, with the intent of beating everyone in the end after luring them in and cashing in on their chips. It’s not a bad strategy…unless you get burned in the end and someone gets “the nuts” on the river, at which point the tables have been turned, you lost a large stack of chips, and now you find yourself fighting to stay in the game.
In a recent LA Times article, “Employers wait longer to hire, waiting for perfect candidate,” it is noted that despite an improving economy, employers are slow-playing their hiring process taking an average of 23 business days to hire someone for a position. In 2009, this process was only 15 business days.
Another article from AOL Jobs, “4 Million Openings: Too Many Employers Await ‘Ideal Candidate’,” reiterates the facts from the LA Times article and goes on to state that employers fear making a bad hire, and that discrimination against the unemployed runs rampant.
In my experience working with civil engineers and civil engineering employers across the country, this concept holds true as well. The economy has crushed the confidence of so many employers over the past five years that they have become very hesitant to “pull the trigger” in hiring new employees…and rightfully so. Slow playing the hiring process when you have a candidate that rates an “8” on a scale of 1-10 while waiting for a “10” to come along will most often result in one of your competitors coming in and swiping your “8” candidate and leaving you with ZERO. You’ve wasted a whole lot of time, you’ve wasted a lot of money (lost productivity, travel, etc), and you’ve still got an empty office or empty cubicle.
A couple of things to keep in mind to help shorten your time-to-hire a civil engineer:
A. If you constantly “slow play” your hiring process waiting for the perfect “10,” your business will never grow. The candidate pool is scattered with some really good, but short of perfect, candidates. Perfect “10’s” are few-and-far between, so if you sit on your hands waiting for that candidate to walk through the doors, well, you’ll likely get pins-and-needles in your hands before too long.
B. A strong manager may be able to turn that “8” into “10”. That said, always be on the look out for mentoring or training opportunities to make your leadership even stronger.
C. Have a hiring process in place, just don’t “wing it.” Have some sort of database that tracks candidates and their skills; allow access to share outlook calendars among employees and keep them up to date so scheduling interviews is a “snap”‘; prepare for the interview with the candidate with the same vigor that the candidate has ideally prepared for you; should the interview go well, be prepared to schedule the 2nd meeting right there on the spot; have an offer letter template that you are able to personalize based upon the candidate and the role you are offering them. Those are just a few ideas.
D. Begin checking references early on in the process if possible. A game of phone tag often persists when checking references, so the earlier you start, the more quickly you can make an offer following the interview. This keeps the momentum of the process going and greatly reduces your chances of the candidate being swiped up by a competitor during the interim that normally exists between the final interview and offer stage.
E. If the candidate has met with more than one person during their interview, be prepared to gather as a group and exchange thoughts with each other within 24 hours. Put it on your schedule. Failing to officially schedule this debrief with the hopes of catching up some time in the near future when everyone just happens to be in the office at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Especially in an environment where everyone is spread so thin…be sure to put the debrief on the calendar.
F. Don’t be so quick to shove aside an unemployed candidate. Some people really do just get the “short end of the stick”…really. If their resume shows progression and stability up until the point they were laid off, you may just have yourself a diamond in the rough!
I’ve slow played in poker before with the allure of building up the stack of chips on the table and cashing in big…what a great feeling! But I can’t play that way all the time. The same holds true with hiring…every once in a while you may slow play the hiring process, buying time until that rainmaker of a candidate appears…and what a great feeling! But that does not happen all the time, so when a good or really good candidate that falls short of “perfect” is within sight, don’t be afraid to go all in!
Today’s blog is the second in a series of entries that will help those executives in the AEC community understand why they might be losing out to the competition when competing for great candidates and top talent. Having recruited civil engineering and architectural professionals for over 15 years I have witnessed some fantastic interviewing and hiring processes…and I have witnessed some miserable ones as well. Most processes fall in the middle of that spectrum, so by understanding what you may NOT be doing and making some subtle (or not so subtle, depending how poor your process really may be) changes may help you reel in a higher percentage of those good or great candidates that may have joined the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!
Not maintaining momentum can KILL your chances of hiring that top prospect. The pace of the interview process in a moment of time is crucial. I’m not talking about having an offer sent to a candidate’s blackberry after the first interview before they even leave the building, but by keeping a steady pace of the process from initial inquiry to offer is so important. I cannot stress this enough.
Momentum is important for multiple reasons:
A. It keeps you focused on the candidate and your thoughts and memory of the interview fresh.
B. It keeps the candidate excited and interested.
C. It shows the candidate that you are indeed excited in the prospect of brining them on board. Extensive delays from interview-to-interview with the same candidate is often perceived by the candidate that the client is undecided or not real thrilled about them, and every day that fades to black without contact or scheduling of an interview or feedback takes a little bit more wind out the sails.
D. Delays in follow-up interviews or reference checks allows for an opening for another firm to shimmy their way on to the candidate’s radar screen. If you are taking your good ‘ol time and the other firm understands the concept of momentum, they can make up considerable ground and by the time you finally lay out an offer on the table the other company will be doing the same; this of course decreases the likelihood of acceptance of your offer.
E. It allows you to move on to other candidates that you were interested in more swiftly in the event of a turndown. Let’s say you put all your efforts into candidate A, but you were aware of candidate B as well but chose not to interview them until your learned the fate of candidate A. If you are dragging your feet and candidate A ends up turning down your offer, candidate B may already be off the market. Ideally, you should be interviewing multiple candidates at the same time if possible. The “all your eggs in one basket theory” is not a good idea here.
So How Do You Keep Momentum Going When Everyone is So Busy?
A. Have access to everyone’s calendar and plan the next meeting at the end of the previous meeting (assuming there is a fit).
B. If you need a day to talk amongst the team that interviewed the candidate, that is okay. But don’t wait longer than 24 hours. If the feedback is positive and you want to move forward, then find 6 available options for the next meeting to present to the candidate (3 days/times during business hours, 3 evenings/times for after hours meeting). This will eliminate the constant back-and-forth that would normally occur suggesting one date and time at a time.
C. For employment law reasons, companies are required to track applicants; have the candidate complete the employment application prior to the first interview. This way that part is done and over with. Sometimes these applications are a hassle, and candidates keep delaying this task, so taking care of this sooner than later is recommended. This also gives them a deadline to meet.
D. Your day is likely filled with meetings, site visits, lunch meetings, etc…so task your in house Recruiter (if you have one), your Human Resources Professional, or your Administrative Assistant with following up with the candidate. Of course if you are using a search consultant, this would be part of their duty in servicing you as their client.
E. The same resources mentioned above in “D” should immediately begin checking references as soon as the candidate has provided them. References can take some time, but if you have someone who is easily accessible to stop what they are doing to take / make that call and write up the appropriate report you will keep the momentum.
F. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this: consider hiring an executive search consultant who specializes in the professional skill set that you are looking to hire. Recruiters are notorious for understanding and keeping the momentum and they will be able to handle all of the above.
G. Should you and your team be excited about the candidate, and should their references check out, be immediately prepared to formulate an EXCITING offer letter, and be sure to include a decision deadline.
How does your company keep momentum going with candidates? Or, as a candidate, what are your experiences you have had where a company was pursuing you and they did a great job with keeping momentum? Or, also as a candidate, did an organization lose out on you because they failed to keep the momentum going? Please share your stories!
Next topic in this series: FAILURE TO CONTINUOUSLY CLOSE
Today’s entry is the first in a series that I will be writing aimed at helping those executives in the AEC community understand why they might be losing out to the competition when competing for great candidates and top talent. Having recruited civil engineering and architectural professionals for over 15 years I have witnessed some fantastic interviewing and hiring processes; I have witnessed some miserable ones as well. Most processes fall in the middle of that spectrum, so by understanding what you may NOT be doing and making some subtle (or not so subtle, depending how poor your process really may be) changes may help you reel in a higher percentage of top talent rather than losing them to the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!
The Red Carpet: If you are not rolling it out, candidates will not roll in.
Actually rolling out a red carpet from the reception area to the President’s office and putting up the candidate at the Ritz Carlton and providing limousine service is not necessarily what I am talking about here – and that would actually be quite odd in the civil engineering world. What I am really talking about is having the candidate have an enjoyable and memorable interviewing experience. Here are some ideas as to how your civil engineering consulting firm can “roll out the red carpet” during its interview process:
A. First Impressions. Have a clean and organized office exterior and internal reception / waiting area. We are dealing with engineers and architects here – they design exactly where water and dirt should go and they design beautiful bridges and buildings. They expect a clean cut and organized facility and reception area that is designed and maintained with pride. Unmaintained landscaping and cobwebs in the corners don’t make for great first impressions.
B. Greetings. Have the receptionist make them feel welcome and let it be known that they were expected. Have the receptionist greet him or her with a hand shake and maybe hand them a prepared folder with corporate marketing materials. That way when they leave and are at home they have constant reminder of how great the interview went (hopefully). Also, don’t make them wait more than five minutes. And when you are ready to meet the candidate, don’t have the receptionist bring them back to a meeting room or your office – come out and get them yourself!
C. Level of Comfort. Make them feel comfortable throughout the interview process by introducing them to some other folks that they could be potentially working with, and be sure to show them around. Some companies may have just the hiring manager interview a candidate, and maybe one other person. The truth is, they will feel much more comfortable at least getting to know some of the other folks they will be in the trenches with as well as what the physical work environment is like. This will help them actually envision themselves working with your civil engineering or architectural consulting firm…not to mention that you will get to see them interact and some extra sets of eyes and ears will allow additional perspectives and feedback regarding the candidate from your team.
D. Making Arrangements. If you are bringing someone in from out of town, have a system in place that allows for YOUR company to make all the arrangements rather than having the candidate make those arrangements themselves only to submit their receipts for reimbursement. This includes flight arrangements, shuttle service, car rental if necessary, hotel arrangements, etc.
E. Thank You Letters. Send the candidate a thank you letter; if not first, at least in a detailed response to the thank you letter that the candidate should have sent you. Trust me – this is not done very often at all. Some may think this is an example of a company showing their cards too early and may hurt them should offer negotiations ensue. I disagree. To me, this is an example of “continuously closing” that I will touch on at a later date. Personally speaking, if I was a candidate and I got an email from a prospective employer thanking me for MY time and sharing with me some of their thoughts on our interview, I would be flattered and encouraged, and I would feel great!
How does your company roll out the red carpet? Or, as a candidate, what are some examples where you have been given what you consider to be “red carpet treatment during an interview process that you went through?
Next topic in this series: MOMENTUM